The clock is ticking toward a decision on the fate of the Douglas Post Office. The 60-day public comment period ended last week on the U.S. Postal Service proposal to close it.
Blesilda Lochmann is acting Marketing Director at the Alaska Postal District Office in Anchorage. She has the job of reading every comment.
“I’d stopped counting,” she says with a laugh. “I have a pile that I have to go through and I have to read each one. Actually I have to enter them into the system and they will become part of our docket.”
Lochmann is one of the Alaska district staff who will recommend the Douglas Post Office close or remain open. One of the last letters she received came from the Juneau legislative delegation, concerned postal officials may not have all the facts.
They say the analysis should look at the space available at alternative post offices. The closest is in the downtown federal building.
Rep. Cathy Munoz says they’re told that closing Douglas may create a whole new problem for the postal service:
“The alternative site, the downtown site, already has a long waiting list for box holders, and we’re not even sure if the box holders from the Douglas facility will be able to be accommodated at the downtown facility,” she says.
Five-hundred sixty-eight box holders would be displaced if the Douglas station closes. They would have to rent a box at another Juneau post office, or get home delivery. Juneau Postmaster Susan Johnson says there is no waiting list at the federal building and there are more than enough vacant boxes to accommodate the Douglas box holders.
All Juneau mail is processed at the Mendenhall Valley Post Office.
The lawmakers’ letter also notes the postal service should consider finding ways to reduce costs at the Douglas Post Office so it could stay open. For example, renegotiating the lease or moving to another Douglas location, or reducing the number of hours the post office is open to save personnel costs.
Lochmann, of the Alaska Postal District, says such changes could be part of the recommendation for Douglas.
That recommendation will be considered by the USPS Western Area Office in Denver. If the station is to close, the public will have 30 days to appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission.
If a shutdown is the final decision, Lochmann says, it wouldn’t happen until February.
Four other Alaska post offices are still on the USPS list for possible closure. They include the Postal Store and the post office at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage as well as the facilities at Fort Wainwright Military Base and Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks.